From Saint Tropez to Vidauban and Le Luc: 2014 commemorations continue

The morning of 15 August 2014 dawned clear and the sun was already warming the beach of Pampelonne when Mayor Roland Bruno, French Parliament member Jean Michel Couve, and Conseil General Alan Spada and numerous patriotic and veterans’ associations commemorated the 70th anniversary of the landings by the 3rd Infantry Division’s 15th Infantry Regiment on Yellow beach. The 0830 ceremony was held at the 7th Army monument on Boulevard Patch in Ramatuelle. Mr. Mike Halik, 15th Infantry Regiment veteran, was with Tim and Monika Stoy of OP International, accompanied by his son, Keith, and daughter, Debbie. A color detachment from the 18th Military Police Brigade in Grafenwoehr, Germany consisting of Staff Sergeant Robert G. Mathis, SPC Cale Schmidt (US Color), and PFC Matthew McKinney (Army flag) participated in the ceremony. Monika and Tim placed a 3ID wreath at the monument and Monika presented an Outpost certificate of appreciation to the Mayor for his continued support of the OP and the Society. Mike Halik received Ramatuelle’s medallion from Mayor Bruno. John Shirley’s reunion tour group also participated in the ceremony, placing a 3rd ID tile at the monument.

Certificate of appreciation presentation to Mayor TuveriThe next ceremony was conducted in Saint Tropez at the town’s war memorial on the Place des Lices. Scheduled to begin at 0930, the ceremony was delayed until 1030 while the Mayor waited for the reunion tour group to arrive. The ceremony included members of the 509th Parachute Infantry Battalion Association, led by their president, Matt Anderson. Mayor Jean-Pierre Tuveri honored the soldiers of the 509th PIB and the 3rd ID’s 15th Infantry Regiment who liberated the village the afternoon of 15 August. Mike Halik was presented Saint Tropez’s town medallion during the ceremony. OP International placed a wreath at the town’s war memorial and honors were rendered at the town’s memorial to the 3rd ID and the 509th PIB which was dedicated in 2009.

A second ceremony was held at 1115, honoring the members of the naval forces which participated in Dragoon with the launching of a poppy wreath from a boat on the waters in the Bay of Saint Tropez, and the placing of wreaths at the memorial on the waterfront. Monika conducted a POW-MIA ceremony with Mayor Tuveri, in memory of the missing in action from Dragoon, especially the seventeen 509th PIB personnel who were dropped in the bay and whose remains were never recovered. The ceremony was very well-received by all present. The reunion group did not participate as it moved on to other ceremonies on the beaches.

Jean Louis Macault presents Mike Halik a replica of the Cogoling monument plaqueThe town hosted our delegation for lunch and then the group moved to Cogolin, where the town dedicated a traffic circle in honor of the 3rd ID, as well as a large monument collocated with the town’s previous monuments to the 1st French Army of General de Lattre de Tassigny and the Resistance. Mayor Marc Étienne Lansard hosted a wonderful and well-attended dedication ceremony. The town’s project officer, Mr. Jean-Louis Macault, did a magnificent job in all aspects of organizing the event. The sculptor, Cécile De Kock, fashioned an impressive monument of six tons! Her father sculpted the 1st French Army monument in Cogolin! Mike Halik, Monika, and Tim were presented with the town’s medallion and replicas of the commemorative plaque on the 3rd ID monument. Unfortunately the reunion group, which had accepted the town’s invitation to the ceremony, arrived too late to participate in either the dedication of the traffic circle or the monument, but was present for the post-ceremony military vehicle parade.

That evening our group returned to Saint Tropez to join the town’s post ceremony reception in the town hall. From there we moved to the Citadel where we enjoyed a wonderful evening concert by famous French musician Michel Legrand and singer Natalie Dessay, and concluded with the town’s fireworks.At the citadel in Saint Tropez for the evening concert

The morning of 16 August the group traveled to le Londe les Maures, the location of SSG Stanley Bender’s (7th Infantry Regiment) Medal of Honor action on 17 August 1944. Our group participated in ceremonies in the town cemetery honoring several heroes of the fighting for the town from the African Commandos and the Resistance before moving to the Maravenne Bridge for a naming ceremony – henceforth the bridge will be known as Sergeant Bender Bridge! The events were organized by the Souvenir Français of La Londe with Mr. Yves Boyer as the prime mover for the naming ceremony. La Londe dedicated a plaque to the 3rd ID in 2006.

That late afternoon we traveled to Vidauban to participate in that town’s liberation ceremony. The town was liberated by the 45th Infantry Division, and a Thunderbird veteran, Mr. Robert Jackson, was present with his daughter Wendy and son-in-law Chuck Eckert, for the ceremony.

17 August was another great day as the town of Le Luc dedicated a plaque honoring the 3rd ID for its role in the town’s liberation. Several other units of the 6th Corps also fought for Le Luc, including Combat Command Sudre of the 1st French Armored Division and elements from the 45th ID. The town’s commemoration began with recognizing a soldier from the 2nd Cuirassier Regiment of CC Sudre who fell in Le Luc and is buried there. There followed an homage to the same soldier in a square named after him in the town. The major ceremony during which the plaque was unveiled was held in the square in front of the town’s war memorial. It was a great ceremony, and we once again honored POWs and MIAs, as well as unveiling the plaque. Mayor Philippe de la Grange and Monika both delivered comments and honors were suitably rendered. Mike Halik was presented with the town’s medallion, as was Mr. Robert Jackson, who attended the ceremony also. Again the color guard from Grafenwoehr did a splendid job under the broiling August sun of Provence. The event concluded with a reception in the courtyard of the town hall.

That afternoon we returned to La Londe for its liberation commemoration. Mayor François de Canson oversaw the event which consisted of four stages, each stage honoring either resistance fighters, African Commandos, local heroes, and the 3rd ID at the location of its plaque in St Honore, the site of the temporary cemetery established in mid-August 1944 which held remains from both the French and US forces. The final event was held in the town square in front of the war memorial, and was well attended. A parade of military vehicles finished the commemoration.

The evening of 17 August we were back in le Luc for fireworks and a concert by a very good local band.

These three days were truly memorable. Each of the visited communities honored Mike Halik and the 3rd Infantry Division, and we were honored to help commemorate the great service of the 45th Infantry Division in Vidauban. So far, the 70th anniversary commemorations at community level have been fabulous!

Veterans tour Operation Dragoon with Outpost International

Report from Tim Stoy on the commemorations in France:

OP International had a great day today!  This morning we dedicated a commemorative plaque honoring Audie Murphy at the location of his Distinguished Service Cross action at Les Bouis in Ramatuelle. The ceremony was hosted by Mayor Roland Bruno of Ramatuelle, and the plaque was sponsored by Mr. Patrice de Colmont, proprietor of the Les Bouis estate and owner of Club 55 on Pampelonne Beach – the beach where the 15th Infantry landed at 0800 on 15 August 1944.Mayor Bruno, Mr. de Colmont, and Monika Stoy all delivered comments in honor of the occasion.

Mr. Mike Halik, 15th Infantry Regiment veteran who was wounded on 15 August 1944 was there for the ceremony, along with his daughter Debbie and son Keith.  This trip is his first time back to Southern France since August 1944!

Also present was Mr. Robert Jackson, 94, a veteran of Operation Dragoon who landed at Ste Maxime with the 45th Infantry Division, along with his daughter Wendy and son in law .

The Mayor of Salzburg, Austria, Dr. Heinz Schaden, accompanied by Mrs Schaden, traveled over 1000 km to be present for the ceremony! The Marne Division started its European campaign on the coast of France, and ended it in May 1945 in Salzburg!  Audie Murphy received his Medal of Honor in a ceremony held in Salzburg on 2 June 1945.

3 soldiers from the 18th Military Police Brigade in Grafenwoehr traveled to Provence to support the ceremony and provided a color guard of US colors and the Army flag – SSG Mathis, SPC Schmidt, and PFC McKinney. They did an outstanding job with the colors on a very windy day.

Mr. Marc Tastenoy and Mr. Julian Auvertin were dressed in accurate period uniforms and represented the soldiers of yesterday well, and Julian carried the Outpost flag in the ceremony.

It was a wonderful ceremony, with local French veterans present as well as representatives from patriotic organizations.

The Yellow Ribbon fife and drum corps provided excellent musical support.

La Croix Valmer 3ID monument

La Croix Valmer 3ID monument

After the ceremony Tim Stoy led the group over the terrain of Audie Murphy’s DSC fight. The terrain is much more challenging than depicted in To Hell and Back!  This particular battlefield is now an organic farm where Mr. de Colmont produces excellent vegetables and delicious grapes.

Before heading to Club 55 for a delicious lunch hosted by Mr. de Colmont, the group drove to La Croix-Valmer to visit the 3rd Infantry Division’s beach head monument there.  This was especially meaningful to Mike Halik who had never seen it before, and to the three active duty soldiers, who were deeply impressed at the historical significance of all that was happening today.

Lunch at Club 55

Lunch at Club 55

We were served a wonderful meal at Club 55, the most famous club in the Mediterranean area and possibly the world.  Words cannot describe the quantities and wonderful flavors of the food served, and Patrice was a wonderful host.  We presented him certificates of appreciation from OP International and the 15th Infantry Regiment Association, a Can Do blazer badge, a Can Do coffee mug, and numerous other 15th Infantry and 3rd ID items. Patrice presented us with nice Club 55 gifts, but most importantly with wonderful memories and a pilgrimage site to return to with the Audie Murphy plaque!

The day was capped off by a visit to the beach where our men landed on 15 August 1944. Walking from Club 55 straight on to the beach, Mike Halik trod once again the fateful sand where he stepped on a land mine on August 1944.  This time there were no mines, just curious onlookers as they watched him doggedly walk through the sand to the waters edge. There were tears in many eyes as we watched him and saw the fierce determination in his eyes.

What a great Marne and Can Do day!

Everyone has a story: Conference Opens

Everyone has a story. Once again, we’re gathered together with the veterans of Operation Dragoon and the Battle of the Colmar Pocket. Monika started the conference by talking about the grand variety of stories that belong in this story. From the artilleryman who was confined to quarters after doing KP duty too close to the Generals discussing the invasion of southern France to the men who jumped into Provence or stormed the beaches, to the folks who fought the war on the farms and in the factories during the war, everyone has a story.

This week, starting with 2 hours tonight, we’ll be covering as many of those stories as we can get to. With 2 hours tonight and 8 hours on Thursday (9am-5pm) at the Sheraton Pentagon City, we should cover a lot of ground. Friday morning, we’ll be at Arlington National Cemetery for wreath-laying at both the Tomb of the Unkown as well as the 3rd Infantry Division monument. Saturday, we’ll spend the day visiting the SS John W. Brown up in the Baltimore (with a stop at Fort McHenry) before our closing banquet back here in Arlington.

It’s a jam-packed week with 14 WWII veterans, numerous family members, several historians and your humble scribe.

Dogface Soldier: The Life of General Lucian K. Truscott, Jr.

Dogface Soldier: The Life of General Lucian K. Truscott, Jr.

From Publisher’s Weekly:

Lucian K. Truscott Jr. (1895–1965) was one of America’s finest WWII combat commanders, building a reputation second only to George Patton as an inspiring and gifted leader. Today he is remembered only by specialists. Hefner, a retired army colonel and physician turned historian (Patton’s Bulldog: The Life and Service of General Walton H. Walter ), corrects that by combining extensive archival and printed sources with perceptive analysis. Truscott served in secondary theaters: the Mediterranean and southern France. But from Sicily and Anzio to the 1944 drive up the Rhône valley and the successful concluding of the Italian campaign as 5th Army’s commander, Truscott showed comprehensive skills in defense and attack, in amphibious landings and mobile operations. Hefner’s Truscott is not a genius, but rather the master of a craft painstakingly studied between the world wars and applied no less painstakingly in combat. He shared the hardships of his men; he drank like a Texan, and a gentleman; he never hesitated to question orders he thought would cost unnecessary casualties. To call him “a faithful and consummate soldier”—as Hefner does in this model general-officer biography—does Truscott no more than justice.

Riviera to the Rhine

Now available both online via Hyperwar and as an eBook via Amazon’s Kindle, the Center for Military History‘s Riviera to the Rhine was originally published in 1976. It has been reprinted by Whitman Publishing as part of their reprise of the Army’s series on WWII and is available in hardcover, new and used.

In the foreword, BGEN Harold Nelson writes:

With the publication of Riviera to the Rhine, the Center of Military History completes its series of operational histories treating the activities of the U.S. Army’s combat forces during World War II. This volume examines the least known of the major units in the European theater, General Jacob L. Devers’ 6th Army Group. Under General Devers’ leadership, two armies, the U.S. Seventh Army under General Alexander M. Patch and the First French Army led by General Jean de Lattre de Tassigny, landing on the Mediterranean coast near Marseille in August 1944, cleared the enemy out of southern France and then turned east and joined with army groups under Field Marshal Sir Bernard L. Montgomery and General Omar N. Bradley in the final assault on Germany.

In detailing the campaign of these Riviera-based armies, the authors have concentrated on the operational level of war, paying special attention to the problems of joint, combined, and special operations and to the significant roles of logistics, intelligence, and personnel policies in these endeavors. They have also examined in detail deception efforts at the tactical and operational levels, deep battle penetrations, river-crossing efforts, combat in built-up areas, and tactical innovations at the combined arms level.

Such concepts are of course very familiar to today’s military students, and the fact that this volume examines them in such detail makes this study especially valuable to younger officers and noncommissioned officers. In truth, the challenges faced by military commanders half a century ago were hardly unique. That is why I particularly urge today’s military students, who might well face some of these same problems in future combat, to study this campaign so that they might learn from their illustrious predecessors in the profession of arms.

Both authors, Jeffrey J. Clark and Robert Ross Smith, have since retired from the Center for Miltary History (in 2006 and 1983, respectively), but wrote extensively about World War II and their volumes are a credit to any library of the war.

Five Years, Four Fronts

BGEN Theodore Mataxis was asked to write a foreword for Georg Grossjohann’s “Five Years, Four Fronts” and nearly turned it down. He felt he’d have little in common with the Major. They hadn’t fought in the same battles and their careers hadn’t been similar.

However, because of my keen interest in and bias in favor of “eyeball accounts” by combat participants, I finally agreed to read the draft manuscript. At worst, I thought, it would confirm my doubts, and I would simply have to decline the opportunity to pen the requested foreword. The more I read, though, the more engrossed and intrigued I became. I found this was not just another war story of campaigns during WWII, but the author’s detailed account of his experience at small-unit level during peace, mobilization and war.

Mataxis truly enjoyed the book and his foreword becomes an enthusiastic endorsement of the work.

The synopsis of the book from the publisher reads:

After Hitler’s invasions of Poland and France came the Russian Front–and that’s when the real war started.

An infantryman who rose from the enlisted ranks to regimental command in combat, Georg Grossjohann fought on four different fronts during World War II, but saw most of his fighting–from 1941 to 1944–against Russians in the Soviet Union and Romania. He provides shattering glimpses of the horror and chaos of the war, as well as profound insights into everyday life in the Wehrmacht.

Five Years, Four Fronts chronicles the combat experiences of Grossjohann and his men as they triumphantly roll across Poland, France, and the sunny steppes of the Ukraine, only to ultimately sustain grinding defeats in the endless, freezing plains of the Soviet Union and the grim, dark Vosges Mountains of France. Grossjohann was a soldier’s soldier, respected by his men, undaunted by his superiors, and, as can be observed in this raw, brutally honest account, not afraid to call the shots as he saw them.

Grossjohann served in the 198th Infantry Division, eventually commanding his regiment during the fighting in the Colmar Pocket and this book allows us to hear from the German perspective. His recollections of the Division’s escape up the Rhone River valley are particularly interesting.

Destination Berchtesgaden

Two very prolific writers, John Frayn Turner and Robert Jackson, turned their attention to the Seventh Army in their book, Destination Berchtesgaden: The US 7th Army during World War II. It was first published in 1975 and is now also available electronically. Turner served in the Royal Navy and Jackson in the Royal Air Force, but that seems not to have hindered their efforts in producing this work.

Their publisher, Osprey, describes the book: Of the US Armies fighting in Europe at the end of World War II, General Patch’s Seventh Army has received the least attention from historians. Although over-shadowed by the performance of General Patton and the actions of his US Third Army (breaking out of the Normandy bridgehead, liberating Paris and seizing Remagen bridge), the Seventh Army made a considerable contribution to the Allied victory, particularly their rapid advance through southern Germany and Austria. The Seventh Army landed in Sicily in 1943, and then took part in Operation Anvil in 1944 before advancing across the Rhine and reaching Berchtesgaden itself. Both the successes and setbacks of the Seventh Army are discussed in this volume, as well as discussing the tactical victories and defeats that contributed to the Allied campaign.

Decision at Strasbourg

Decision at Strasbourg: Ike’s Strategic Mistake to Halt the Sixth Army Group at the Rhine in 1944 was published by the Naval Institute Press in 2008 and would be a great addition to any library on the 6th Army Group.

From the description provided by the Naval Institute:

In late November 1944, just a day before Lt. Gen. Jacob Devers’ Sixth Army Group was to launch a bold attack across the Rhine into Germany, Gen. Dwight Eisenhower ordered a halt to the operation. Such an unexpected opportunity to cross the river, seal off the German 19th Army, and maneuver behind the German 1st Army fighting General George Patton might have ended the war six months early. Until now, few have ever heard about this lost opportunity, and historians have never fully explained why Eisenhower stopped Devers, nor have they analyzed the possible outcome of such an attack. This book does just that, exploring what might have occurred had Ike allowed Devers to cross the river.

Colley judiciously cites the opinions of many high-ranking generals, including Patton, that the attack would have been a bold and likely successful maneuver that could have saved thousands of lives. In rolling out this alternative historical perspective, the author offers insights about Eisenhower that illuminate the potential consequences of his cautious leadership and his rejection of a man he disliked and whose strategy he lacked confidence in. Colley points to Ike’s reliance on old friends, sometimes regardless of ability, and argues that the conduct of World War II in Europe was often determined by personal amities and animosities. It is the only book to be written about the aborted action and how politics and personalities intervened to deny an opportunity to shorten the war. Its premise is certain to engage all interested in World War II and its lessons.

First to the Rhine: The 6th Army Group in World War II

It’s a long march from St. Tropez on the Mediterranean, across the length of France, over into Germany, down to Munich, and into Austria, a semicircle well over eight hundred miles. The 6th Army Group, comprised of the U.S. Seventh and French First armies, fought its way along that route, a route often defined by the rivers and mountains that needed to be crossed: the Rhône River, the Vosges Mountains, the Rhine River, the Danube.

While some called it the “champagne campaign,” the landings near St. Tropez on 15 August 1944 were more vigorously defended than those in North Africa or even Anzio. Fortunately, the American divisions that came ashore were hard-bitten veterans of the war in Italy and, in the case of the 3d Infantry Division, North Africa. The French units also included many veterans of the Italian campaign and comprised Frenchmen and Africans in almost equal numbers. As the Allies battled on, the French ranks were swelled by tens of thousands of Free French Forces of the Interior, the famous maquis. German forces arrayed against the Allies included the famed 11th Panzer Division, an Eastern front veteran known as the “Ghost Division,” which would hit the Allied advance time and again only to slip away before it could be pinned and destroyed. But the Allies pushed on, northward into and over the Vosges Mountains.

First to the Rhine tells the story of that nine-month campaign from the strategic plane down through the corps, division, and regimental levels to the personal experience of the men in combat, including the likes of Audie Murphy, America’s most decorated infantryman of the war. It features little-known battles, including one at Montélimar, when an ad hoc American armored command and the 36th Infantry Division came within a hair’s breadth (and several days of hard fighting) of cutting off the entire German Nineteenth Army. Also covered is the vicious fighting during the German Nordwind counteroffensive in January 1945 and the French-American offensive to clear the Colmar Pocket between the Vosges and the Rhine.

Authors Harry Yeide and Mark Stout draw heavily on official American and French after-action reports, other contemporary combat records such as highly detailed S-3 and G-3 operations journals, and interviews conducted by the U.S. Army with soldiers shortly after the actions occurred. Also used are personal recollections written by key commanders in American, French, and German ranks. Illustrations come from official U.S. Army photographs and film. The result is the first popular English-language history that explores the French role in the fighting and the relationship between the U.S. Army and the French forces that fought under American command—and at times also controlled American divisions.

You can order it from Amazon.

70th Anniversary Commemoration

From St. Tropez to Colmar: Operation Dragoon to the Battle of the Colmar Pocket – the US 6th Army Group and 7th Army in France
15 August 1944 to 9 February 1945
Hosted by Outpost Europe, Society of the 3rd Infantry Division, the Army Historical Foundation, and the Embassy of France

When: 30 July to 3 August 2014 (Wednesday-Sunday)
Where: Sheraton Pentagon City Hotel
900 South Orme Street
Arlington, VA 22204

Who: Please join us in honoring the veterans of the 6th Army Group; 1st French Army; 7th Army; 6th Corps; 3rd, 36th, and 45th Infantry Divisions; 1st Allied Airborne Task Force – 517th PIRCT (including AT CO/442nd IN), 509th PIB, 4463rd PFAB, 550th AIB, 551st PIB, and the 2nd IPB (UK); and 1st SSF in Southern France; the supporting US Army Air Corps; US Navy, Coast Guard, and Merchant Marine; the OSS; and from the participant allied nations of France, Poland, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Greece, and Canada; the 21st Corps, 28th ID, 75th ID, and 12th AD which joined the 3rd ID and 36th ID in the Battle of the Colmar Pocket, family members, friends, and anyone interested in WWII history.

Wednesday, 30 July: 1 to 3 PM – registration; 7 to 9 PM – Historical seminar I
Thursday, 31 July: 9 AM to 5 PM – Historical seminar II and veterans’ remembrances

5:30 PM to 7:30 PM – Reception at French Embassy

Friday, 1 August: 8 to 12 AM – ceremony in Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery, including wreath-laying at Tomb of the Unknowns and the 3rd Infantry Division monument and respects at the Audie Murphy gravesite
12:30 to 2:30 PM – Luncheon at Fort Myer Officers Club
7 to 9 PM – Historical seminar III and veterans’ remembrances
Saturday, 2 August: Bus trip to SS John W. Brown Liberty Ship and Fort McHenry in Baltimore

5 PM: Cocktail Hour (no host)
6 to 9 PM – Banquet

Sunday, 3 August: Departures and Farewells
Why: To honor the veterans of the Operation Dragoon and the campaigns in Southern France, the Vosges, and in Alsace, to preserve history, educate the public, and pass on the torch of their proud legacy.
Room Reservations: Price – $92 per night, one day prior to event and one day after.
Reservations: call Anne Janeski at 703-271-6670,
Reservation Group Name: Operation Dragoon
Point of Contact: Monika Stoy, President
Outpost Europe, Society of the 3rd Infantry Division, PH: 703 912 4218
6531 Milva Lane, Springfield, VA. 22150 USA
RSVP by 10 July 2014
Registration: Event registration – $30. Luncheon – $40. Banquet – $40.
(Free for WWII veterans of the campaign in Southern France and in Alsace)